These are not exactly unchartered waters for a team from the Colonial Athletic Association. George Mason, who was also an at-large double digit seed in 2006, shocked the basketball world by dropping a power conference team (Michigan State) by double digits and then shocking another power conference team (North Carolina) to advance to the Sweet 16.
Something is quite different with VCU though. Participating in the First Four round and drilling Southern Cal, sliding past Villanova in the 2nd round and finally dismantling Purdue to reach the school’s first Sweet 16. All the while hearing every step of the way that they don’t belong. VCU has an NCAA program record of 9-9. That’s more wins than any other CAA school and more wins than the conference has total in this last 20 years.
So what’s so special about this bunch? Shaka Smart believes he knows, they respond to challenges:
"We had a game earlier this year where an assistant coach came out in the newspaper and said that we couldn’t defend, and we went on that game and we held that team to under 50 points. So I learned very early in the year about our team that they like a challenge, especially if it’s posed by somebody that they can perceive as the enemy, or the opposition."
Florida State and VCU may look at each other and see many similiarities Both teams score nearly the same amount per game in the low 70s and shoot nearly identical percentages from the field at 43.7 and 43.6, respectively. The key in this matchup will be the rebounding margin as the ’Noles have a decided size advantage.
Chris Singleton for Florida State is back but battled foul trouble and obvious timing issues in the opening rounds as he only scored 7 points on 2-7 shooting from the field and 1-4 from deep. While the ‘Noles may not benefit on the scoreboard, they definitely benefit emotionally from their Senior leader.
"You just want to go out there and prove everybody wrong. You feel like it’s just us against the world, and that’s just the mentality we’ve been having since we came in the tournament, because last Sunday everybody was criticizing us for even being in the tournament. We just wanted to come and play with a chip on our shoulder and prove that we belong. Now we just want to keep it rolling."